2014 is winding down toward its end, and yesterday brought a nice late-year treat: a new Stephen King novel. As has been the case the past few times Uncle Steve released a new book into the wild, I took a couple of vacation days so I could digest it promptly.
And now, here I am, sharing my opinion of it with you fine folks.
I wish I could tell you I loved it.
And I could. I could lie to you. And while we're on the subject, say . . . did I ever tell you about the time I was an astronaut? Yeah, it was pretty wild. See, the Earth had started to wilt, and so NASA decided to send a mission to another galaxy to hopefully find a new planet for us all to go live on, and guess who captained that mission? That's right: me. Yeah, sure enough: it was pretty wild.
That sounds a bit like the setup for the movie Interstellar, doesn't it? Guess what? It is. That's not MY story at all.
But that didn't stop me from lying about for the duration of a few sentences.
So, yeah: I could lie to you about Revival and tell you I loved it. I won't do that, though.
Instead, I'll restrict myself to saying that I liked it. Mostly. Among recent King works, I'd say it comes in on the lower end of the spectrum; it's not up to par with Joyland or The Wind Through the Keyhole, and doesn't even approach 11/22/63. It might be better than Doctor Sleep and Mr. Mercedes; I'd have to think about it for a while to say for sure.
The novel is relatively short (just over 400 pages), but it has a great deal of scope to it. I want to keep this review as free of detail as possible, for the benefit of those who will be reading it in the next few days; however, I don't think it will give too much away to say that it spans quite a few decades in the life of its main character, Jamie Morton.
You'll get to know Jamie as a little boy, and as a teenager, and as a middle-aged man, and as an old(ish) man. King writes the novel first-person from Jamie's perspective, and one of the results is that, as with Joyland, the novel becomes about remembrance and the passage of time as much as it is about anything else.
Take that approach, sprinkle it with a dash of "1922" here and a dash of The Body there (in terms of tone and style, that is, not in terms of plot); stir in a generous portion of the ruthlessness of Pet Sematary; add a pinch of "The Little Green God of Agony" and a dash of "The Night of the Tiger"; season it with The Green Mile; and turn the older Danny Torrance of Doctor Sleep into a guy who can play the guitar rather than a guy who has psychic powers. Voila; a recipe that (more or less) results in Revival.
So why doesn't it work? The novel is exceptionally well-written; it's nicely paced; and, despite my reductive list of "ingredients," it doesn't feel so much like a King-greatest-hits collection as another piece of evidence that King is still growing and developing as a writer and a storyteller.
So . . . again: why doesn't it work?
We'll have to explore the answer to that in a few weeks, when I return to the novel in a less spoilerphobic review. For now, though, I can only conclude that the novel's eventual direction seems to be somewhat at odds with its initial direction(s). That's an awfully vague assessment, I know; but for now, it's the best I can do.
I would like to add two things before I sign off:
First: it is entirely possible that a reread will change my mind entirely. It's a slender enough novel that I am considering reading it a second time, just to be sure. Until such time as that reread happens, part of me wants to hold out hope that this is a case of a poor reading job on my part moreso than it is a case of a novel I simply didn't end up liking all that much. It wouldn't be the first time; and King is a much better writer than I am a reader. So, who knows?
Second: there is a substantial religious subplot running through the novel. It might be incorrect to call it a subplot, too; it might be THE plot. I'll have to consider that. There have been a few King interviews from the past couple of years in which King -- never one to shy away from bringing religion and spirituality into his works -- has gone on the record as being a believer. He's said as much in a few of the interviews which have accompanied the release of Revival. I see zero reason whatsoever not to take King at his word. However, I have to say . . . Revival does not, to my eyes, read like the work of a man who believes in God. This is neither a positive nor a negative, as far as critiquing the book goes; whatever it is it IS, and that's good enough for me. But my knee-jerk reaction is to squint a bit and tentatively raise my hand, because what teacher told me and what teacher wrote on the board . . . well, they don't entirely seem to match, do they?
All this requires contemplation.
So, I'll bottom-line it for you: 370 or so pages of this 405-page novel thrilled me. The last few chapters deflated me. I've seen a few prominent King critics indicate that those final pages scared them as much as anything King has ever written. I wish I had been moved the way they were; I, instead, felt like I was observing a basketball player go up for a slam dunk, only to have the ball bounce back out of the hoop and go flying back in the other direction.
I hope to find out that I just missed something, somehow.
I fear I didn't.
Hit the comments section and let me know what you thought!